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Best Books for Current and Aspiring CFOs, CPAs, and Other Finance Leaders

by Kiplinger Advisor Collective on

Books can be invaluable resources for finance leaders who need to keep on top of principles, processes, and best practices. Traditionally published books, vetted and edited by publishing houses, are more likely than many internet sources to contain credible, fact-checked information.

For CFOs, two kinds of books are essential: books that explore complex financial concepts in depth, and books that encourage the development of leadership skills and concepts. In this post, we’ll highlight some examples of each kind.

Finance-Specific Knowledge

For in-depth knowledge and insights on various aspects of finance, accounting, taxation, and business management, nothing beats a book researched and written by an expert.

Here are some that might interest you:

Financial Shenanigans, Fourth Edition: How to Detect Accounting Gimmicks and Fraud in Financial Reports

by Howard M. Schilit, Jeremy Perler, and Yoni Engelhart

You’ve got to love the title of this one — and expect it to be engrossing reading. It shows how to identify and uncover accounting tricks, manipulation, and potential fraud in financial statements. CFOs, CPAs, and other finance pros can use the tools and techniques described in this book to analyze financial reports critically and detect red flags.

The Intelligent Investor Rev Ed.: The Definitive Book on Value Investing Paperback

by Benjamin Graham and Jason Zweig

"The Intelligent Investor" by Benjamin Graham is a classic in the field of investing. This 2006 revised edition with updated commentary from modern financial journalist Jason Zweig builds on the 1949 classic edition, often called the “stock market bible” for its depth of insight. Look here for timeless advice on value investing, long-term wealth creation, stock market analysis, risk management, and disciplined investing.

The Compliance Revolution: How Compliance Needs to Change to Survive by David Jackman

This tome from Wiley Finance explores modern compliance challenges and offers a model for working through changes in regulations, taking into account culture, ethics, governance, and other parameters. It discusses how compliance challenges contributed to the 2008 economic crisis, and offers suggestions for navigating forward.

Financial Management for Nonprofit Organizations: Policies and Practices (Third Edition)

by John Zietlow, Jo Ann Hankin, Alan G. Seidner, and Tim O'Brien

An interesting niche, nonprofit finance requires considering different objectives, sources of funding, and regulation and reporting requirements. This book provides insights into budgeting, financial reporting, and governance for nonprofits in various sectors. Practical and ethical considerations are taken into account in this examination of the differences — and similarities — between nonprofit financial management and that of for-profit corporations.

Necessary Evil: How To Fix Finance By Saving Human Rights by David Kinley

David Kinley, a professor and scholar of human rights law, examines the power of finance as the great force behind economic practices that keep a billion people around the world existing on under $2/day. But he sees the potential for the financial sector to become a force for good, harnessing its power to spread wealth, reduce poverty, and protect human rights. Adding his own experience to that of bankers, economists, lawyers, politicians, human rights activists, philosophers, historians and anthropologists, Kinley looks for a better way.

Leadership Skills and Inspiration

General leadership and business books are not just for CEOs. They can inspire, inform, and motivate others — like CFOs — too.

Some leadership books offer real-life success stories, case studies, and anecdotal narratives based on the achievements and challenges of leaders who lived them. Others give insight into specific skills and management techniques. Communication skills, for example, are vital for CFOs and CPAs who work with cross-functional teams and need to effectively communicate financial information.

Here are some titles to offer fresh ideas and perspectives and make you a better leader.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

by Simon Sinek

This comes up on almost every great business books list.


It’s because the concept is so simple, yet so effective. Sinek’s masterwork explores the importance of understanding and communicating the "why" behind actions and decisions. It can inspire CFOs and CPAs to reflect on their own purposes and motivate them to lead with clarity and inspire their teams.

The CFO Guidebook (Fourth Edition) by Steven M. Bragg

The role of CFOs in organizations is evolving. Not only is a CFO responsible for the financial structure and performance of their company, handling budget oversight, investor relationships, and regulatory compliance, they also must handle strategy, risk management, fintech advancements, and team leadership.

This book offers a comprehensive overview of everything a CFO handles, with detailed advice for various situations. For an aspiring or first time CFO, it will be an indispensable reference. More experienced leaders can refer to it as a refresher and perhaps discover new ways of thinking about the challenges they face every day.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

by Daniel Kahneman

How do you think? Discovering how you make choices can help enhance your decision-making abilities, and that’s what this one is about. It explores human behavior, especially thought processes, and can help you overcome common cognitive pitfalls. Understanding how your team members think can help you work with them efficiently to create great outcomes.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High (Third Edition, 2021)

by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and Emily Gregory

When your comfort zone is numbers, communication skills sometimes suffer. Even those who are extroverted and comfortable in conversation may find the difficult conversations that are a part of leadership — like performance issues and terminations — to be extremely uncomfortable. Here’s a book to help with resolving conflicts and reaching positive outcomes in those situations.

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

by Kim Scott

Kim Scott’s treatise on being a good leader by building strong relationships and creating a culture of honest, empathetic feedback, has been a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller over multiple years. It’s sold more than half a million copies worldwide. It’s been endorsed by respected names like Daniel Pink and Gretchen Rubin. The popularity of this book indicates that it’s about time bosses began to behave like — and treat their employees as — real people.

Build Your TBR Pile for Finance Growth

Finance experts can find great information in books. Explore finance-specific topics in depth and train your leadership skills and expertise titles like the ones above.

Of course, some aspects of finance evolve so fast that the book publishing process takes a few months to catch up, so be sure to also keep an eye on financial journals, industry-specific newsletters, updated regulatory guidelines, and refresher training courses to keep your finance knowledge fresh.

But don’t overlook the value of a strong professional library. And never underestimate the value of a strong professional network. If you’re a finance expert like a CFO or CPA, look into Kiplinger Advisor Collective to find peers, resources, and events. See if you qualify.

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